January blues underscore the precariousness of life for many people – Laura Waddell

January, being such a long, cold slog, more often than not seems to contain a lot of those weeks where everything seems to go wrong. Really, it’s one of those months.

In the last week or so alone, I’ve had a cavalcade of modest calamities. Most urgently, a corner of my bedroom ceiling fell in. Having noticed the bulge a few days prior, I’d already evacuated that corner, and was bedded down in another room when the plaster crashed down and scattered across the wooden floorboards like an explosion.

My landlord, luckily, is responsive and on it, and in brighter moments, sleeping somewhere else temporarily, with different lights and shadows on the ceiling and a stronger spring in the mattress, I feel like I am on a mini-break. Now I’m having a lockdown flashback to when people were doing mad things like erecting tents in their living rooms just for the thrill of feeling something, anything, different from their ordinary.

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But if I could just about deal with all that, then my washing machine broke down, my water went off during Tuesday night’s Milngavie water main break, I discovered a gap around an old skylight was letting in the cold winter night breeze, and I received the double whammy of my tax bill and a shocking quarterly electricity bill, paying more than ever for shivering through the winter.

Friends I’ve seen recently have faced similar pile-ups of one-thing-after-the-nexts. The January specials, this year as ever, are cars breaking down, buses not turning up, coughs, colds and flu, and sick pets. Besides the winter cold and damp weakening all they can structurally is the considerable mental discouragement of grey skies and grey puddles. Of course, as for new year’s resolutions, this is the time they start going out of the window. Good thing I didn’t make any.

When life events pile up, self-doubt and ego suggest in unhelpful whispers that we are uniquely struggling to cope. A bad run starts to feel like a curse, a spell to be broken. But in talking to friends about these domestic trials and tribulations, particularly those who are fellow renters and working-class millennials without savings to lean on, I realise how common it is among our generation to feel precarious almost all of the time.

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